Japanese parenting

We’re overdue for a vacation. Because when you visit family in Florida, however lovely, a vacation it is not. Vacations involve sunscreen and umbrella drinks. Shell jewelry and white jeans, a pedicure. Or they involve an itinerary. Most certainly, for us, a vacation means a camera that’s not your phone.

Since the beans have entered my life, there have been a few trips without them, to Vegas, to New Orleans, but nothing overseas. As my fortieth birthday present, Phil printed up a voucher promising me a trip to Asia. I’m cashing in that voucher this week. He and I leave the kids behind with the wonderful grandparents, as we board a thirteen and a half hour flight. Destination: Tokyo. 16 days in Japan.

Oh, hi. We didn’t book the trip until last week—yes, for this week. Because that’s just how I rock. I’m giddy and slightly overwhelmed, as if I have three days before leaving for sleepaway camp. While I’ve already provided my dear mother-in-law with a list that includes detailed instructions should one of the beans’ adult teeth be knocked loose (put it under their tongue or in a cup of milk and rush them to the ER) to a demand that should they need stitches on their faces, a plastic surgeon must be called—I have yet to make a single dinner reservation, and haven’t begun to consider what to pack.

While I’m focused on researching cities, booking hotels, and registering for “experiences” from calligraphy and Japanese flower arrangement to cooking classes and sake-tasting boat cruises, there’s still parenting that needs to happen. While I search the web for “Packing for Japan in Spring” and “Proper exposure to photograph fire,” there are the smaller intricacies of parenting that need tending. How to get the real scoop about their days at school, to know what’s working its way in their curious minds, and then there’s how to handle the bigger moments. Like stealing.

I’d once picked my neighbors’ flowers as a child. My father walked me back to the neighbors and had me apologize. I never stole another thing in all my life.

Two weeks ago, we had a swiping episode between one family member and another, tangled with a few silken strands of dishonesty—it wasn’t me!—which lead to a very stern talk about life decisions, choosing what type of life you want for yourself, and making sure that your actions reflect those choices. Electronic devices were taken away as a consequence, but the talk, purposeful, quiet, and serious is what I hope really lingered. I might have mentioned that the next time it happens I’m calling the police. That is, after I had the bean read me the etymology of “larceny.”

As a parent you wonder if the behavior is simply fueled by a desire to test boundaries or if it’s a symptom of something else. And that something else can keep you up at night. What am I doing wrong? Do I give them enough attention? Do they feel deeply heard and acknowledged? I’d like to say, “yes, I think so,” but the truth is, I can write a good game, but in the playing of parenting, I hear myself sometimes saying, “Everyone go away! I can’t do two things at once, and I have to finish this. If I had a door right now, I would close it!” In the movie version, I’d hide with my laptop on the toilet. But it wouldn’t help because everyone would still want to tell me something. “Mama, mama, mama?” Yes. “Mama?” Yeeees. “I forget.”

As irritated as I feel in that moment, I also savor it. Because these are the moments I’ve wished for upon star-spangled Texan skies. This family, this beautifully chaotic last-minute life.

While we’re away, I’m arming the in-laws with Netflix. “Emotional Intelligence” Netflix. Sure, it’s there to escape their own realities when they’re exhausted, but it’s also to share with the kittens come the weekend. Netflix offers up a lineup of “tough subject” episodes for kids of all ages, icebreakers to extend the conversations and discussion beyond the show. No doubt there are episodes on stealing. I’ll have to find them. In the meanwhile, there’s these:

For the big kids:

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Watch Ep. 113: Star

After Dulcinea feels like no one in the group needs her help, she tries to use a newly-discovered wishing star to show her worth — but fails — showing her that presence alone has lit up her friends’ lives all along.

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Watch Ep. 103: Smart is the New Cool

After McKeyla insists she works better alone, she learns that four is better than one when her friends jump in to help her rescue the Prince from a botched space mission.

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Peer Pressure
Watch Ep. 106: The Legend of El Explosivo

After getting grounded for sneaking off to Bobby Popko’s house, Jackson realizes he needs to stand up for what he knows is right and not give in to please his friends.


For the teens:

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Social Media FOMO
Watch Ep. 102: Girl Meets Boy

Cory challenges his class to unplug from their phones for a week. When Riley and her crush Lucas sit down to talk face-to-face, personal stories bring them closer.

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Self Improvement
Watch Ep. 104: Kimmy Goes to the Doctor!

Kimmy quickly realizes that she can’t fix her problems by simply “Buhbreezing” them away – real change comes from the inside.

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Body Image
Watch Ep. 101: #BootyCall

According to the kids of Degrassi Community School, butts are the new boobs. But Shay’s realization that “brains are the new butts” can speak to a number of body image insecurities.

For Me:

Personally, I’ll be here brushing up on my Japanese as I binge my way through Atelier: Netflix Japan’s Original Series—it’s ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ Of Lingerie.

Netflix Japan Atelier

That, and I’ll be enjoying Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Netflix #streamteam

Been to Japan? Suggestions, regrets, and favorites welcome!

As of now, we’re going to Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Gifu, and Hakone.

Packing for Japan


  1. What are your tips for booking flights on that short of notice? Do you find better deals that way?

    1. Author

      I can’t say that I have any tips. We have nothing with which to compare earlier prices, since we weren’t looking then.

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